By: Nikki Nies
While a mortar and pestle has been around since ancient time to prep ingredients into paste or powder, its use isn’t as ubiquitous as it used to be. The bowl-mortar is often times found in hard wood, bamboo, iron, steel, brass, basalt, ceramic or stone form while the pestle is the club shaped object that’s used for crushing and grinding. The word mortar is Latin for ‘receptacle for pounding’ while pestle derives from the Latin word, pestillum which means ‘pounder.’
My initial thoughts on using a mortar and pestle are to grind own spices. I’ve used it to make my own Italian seasoning! However, I know I can broaden my horizons and use it for pastes, marinades, curries, pesto, gazpacho and guacamole like many others do. Native Americans have used the bedrock mortar to even grind acorns and nuts and the Japanese use wooden mallets with their mortars to make mochi. Due to their historical appearance in preparing medicines, it’s frequently associated with the pharmaceutical and masonry professions.
Due to the quick use of motorized grinders, mortar and pestles have phased out of mainstream society, however, developing countries still use to husk and dehull grain.
If you’re purchasing your first mortar and pestle, it may be helpful to orient yourself to how to use it. First up, make sure to never use detergent. All you need to do is rinse with plain water without detergent and let it air dry. Additionally, it’s important to season first to eliminate possibility of grit in food.
How to season:
- Place a handful of uncooked rice in mortar and grind until pulverized. Discard and then repeat until rice is white instead of gray or ash colored.
- Add 4 peeled cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon [kosher] salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Grind evenly and then discard mixture. Rinse mortar and pestle with clear water and air dry prior to storing or using.
Don’t replace a hands on, flavor inducing experience with grinders, blenders and/or food processors. Next time you’re whipping up a grand meal, share @WeDishNutrition how you’re using your mortar and pestle.